Saturday, July 25, 2015

Let's Have a Chaat, and Some Restaurantware To Show It Off!

   We do a lot of entertaining around here on the weekends and I'm always looking for interesting and easy ways to present Indian snacks, so when the people at Restaurantware asked me if I'd like to try out some of their eco friendly tableware of course I jumped at the chance. They sent me an assortment of sustainable bamboo pieces perfect for partying.

   One thing I always like to serve my guests at parties or as a snack before a big Indian feast is some sort of chaat. Chaats come in many varieties with an assortment of ingredients and spices and fit in perfectly with any kind of party planning whether you are serving Indian food or not. They're also my go to snack for Laker games, NBA finals, and of course the San Francisco Giants.

   I have a very simple easy to whip up chaat recipe that I've made for years the recipe is right here and it's also naturally gluten free since this particular one is made with rice. I found that scooping the chaat into these perfect bamboo cones was a great way to serve it, and adds a festive touch. If you're planning an event I highly recommend this nifty little servers. Restaurantware also carries a variety of other materials and designs so you'll be seeing them around here from time to time. I'm really glad they gave me the opportunity to try out their products.

   Coming up next I'm on the jam..or rather the chutney since everything is in season around here right now.  Apricot chutney is on the menu next, and this is a recipe one doesn't even need fresh apricots to make. I happen to have tyons of them, but dried will work just as well. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gluten Free, Or Not, Strawberry Ricotta Tart with Strawberry Balsamic Glaze.

Strawberry tart #glutenfree

   I grew up with a liking for a lot of stuff that other kids my age wanted no part of. Why? My mom shopped the sales.  Pigs feet one dollar a pound? She'd buy em, we'd eat them. Vegetables not many people were interested in became my favorite. She never was part of the dented can, eat past the expiration date crowd, (though I knew some of those and yes, they're still alive). The one thing this frugal shopping left me with was a taste for sales of any sort. So when our local Whole Foods announced a sale of organic strawberries 2 lbs for 3 bucks, of course I was there. What a deal! I started thinking about things I might do with the berries. Should I make jam, shortcakes again, ice cream? Then my problem was solved for me when a close friend of ours who has a gluten allergy suggested we get together. "I'll bring the dessert!" I said and I suddenly knew just what I wanted to make.

   This recipe for a strawberry ricotta tart started out as a recipe I saw for a regular strawberry tart made with mascarpone cheese, strawberries, and port wine. I thought why not make it a bit lighter with ricotta, and instead of Port wine, (which I didn't have). I'd use Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar from Sonoma Harvest. I used my special blend of gluten-free flour for the crust, but you can use any type of gluten-free flour, or regular flour if there are no allergies involved.

   I made the ricotta myself which is pretty dang easy. It's also easy to just pick up a carton. If you'd like to make your own  ricotta my recipe is here.

Anyway, whether you make your own or use store bought, this is a pretty quick recipe to make. So let's get to it.

Strawberry Ricotta Tart 

Here's What You Need: 

For the Tart:
1 1/4 cups of flour, (regular or gluten free) plus a bit more for dusting
3 Tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
7 Tbs unsalted butter chopped up
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs ice water

For The Filling:
1 1/2 lbs cleaned  trimmed and halved strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups of ricotta (16 oz) If you are using my recipe for ricotta double it to have enough for this recipe
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated fresh lemon zest
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 10 inch tart pan  with a removable bottom,
pie weights or dried beans or rice

Here's What To Do: 


Preheat the oven 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle.
Blend your flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a bowl with a pastry blender, or do as I do and mix it together with a couple of pulses of a food processor. (much easier)
Blend it until you have a mealy mix. Set it aside

In a small bowl mix together the egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and ice water.
Drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture and pulse it until you have dough.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 times.
Shape it into a 5 inch disc and put it in the center of your tart pan.
Cover it with plastic wrap, and then using your fingers, push and spread the dough around the bottom and sides of the pan until they're covered.
Take a fork and prick the dough all over with a fork  through the plastic wrap, then stick the whole thing in the freezer to firm up for 10 minutes.

Take the tart shell out, peel off the plastic wrap and line the tart shell with aluminum foil.
Fill it with pie weights or beans.
Bake the tart until the sides are set and the edges are pale golden. This takes about 20 minutes.
Carefully take the foil and pie weights out of the tart and pop it back into the oven until it's a deep golden color, another 20 minutes more.
Cool the tart in the pan for about 45 minutes and remove the ring.

Stir the strawberries together in a bowl with the granulated sugar and let it sit for about 30 minutes, then strain the juice out of the berries.

Place the juice in a small pot and set it aside.
Whisk the ricotta together with the powdered sugar...

...lemon zest...

...lemon juice...

...vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Beat everything together until it's nice and stiff.

Spread the ricotta mixture into the tart shell...

...and spread it around.

Fill the tart shell up.

Meanwhile back at the strawberries....
Add 1/2 cup of Strawberry balsamic vinegar to the juice fro the macerated berries.

Pour it in and stir it around.

Bring this mixture to a boil then turn it down to a simmer and simmer away until it's reduced. This takes about 15 minutes or so.
Stir this every now and then so nothing burns. The syrup is done when it's thickened.
Arrange the sliced berries on top of the ricotta cheese.

You want a nice pile in the center.

When you've got them where you want them, drizzle the thickened balsamic glaze over the berries.

And serve it up!

  the berries and the glaze should be put on the tart right before serving to avoid bleeding of juice into the ricotta base. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just looks prettier. 
   This is a great dessert for the gluten-free crowd, and it works just as well using regular flour. You can also try a variety of berries on this dessert. Just use what ever's freshest. Coming up next, chaat for a crowd and a great way to serve it, thanks to Restaurantware! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Apricot, Another Summer Chutney.

   Last year we were in the process of moving, and I was virtually kitchenless, so this Summer  I'm making up for lost canning time. I've already bottled my mango chutney, my plum chutney and now it's time for apricots to get their turn. I've been making this apricot chutney for close to 25 years now. Usually I make it with fresh apricots in season, but the great thing about it is if you can't get fresh apricots it works just as well with the dried variety. The recipe comes from one of the first Indian cookbooks I ever owned, Lord Krishnas' Cuisine and it's definitely a keeper which is why I have continued to make it for 25 years. It was my first venture into canning, but one can also make it, keep it in the fridge and serve it without canning. The ingredients are likely already in your kitchen, so all one needs are the apricots.

 Apricot Chutney

Here's What You Need:
2 lbs of fresh apricots, or 1/2 lb dried apricot halves.  
(If you are using dried apricots soak them overnight in 3 Tbs lime juice and 2 cups of hot water.)
3 Tbs lime juice
1/2 cup water
3 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp black onion seeds  (aka kalonji) or black sesame seeds
1/2 Tbs finely chopped peeled ginger root
2 Tbs ghee or unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark raisins or currants
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili or cayenne

Here's What To Do:
If you are using dried apricots drain the soaked fruit and save the soaking liquid.
If using fresh apricots wash and slice them.

Put them in a bowl and set them aside.

In a large pot or skillet melt the ghee or butter. Add in the cinnamon, black onion seeds, and ginger.

Sizzle the spice for about 1/2 a minute then add in the apricots...

...lime juice...


...and everything else.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer.
Stir it every now and then so nothing sticks.
You want the chutney to become thick and glossy. This usually takes about 30 minutes for fresh, 45 for dried.

 You can serve it at room temperature, or store it covered in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.
 If you are planning on canning sterilize your jars and equipment, fill them...

...and process according to canning instructions. I process pint jars for about 20 minutes in a boiling water canning bath.

Then I remove them, wait for the familiar "pop" that tells me they're safely sealed, and as soon as they've cooled down, off to the larder they go.

This chutney has always been a crowd pleaser at our house, and is especially good in the fall, at Thanksgiving.

   Coming up next, I explore some novel, beautiful, and eco-friendly serveware sent to me by Restaurantware which certainly jazzes up Summertime entertaining. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer's Here, It's Mango Chutney Making Time!

   I grew up in a household where jelly and jams and pickles came in a jar from the market, and cranberry sauce wasn't the "real deal" unless it stood ringed and shivering upright on on the plate. As a working class city kid the idea of making your own condiments was not even on the table. Everyone was working too hard to bother with heavy duty cooking and it was easier and cheaper for my mom to open a box, or buy jelly in glasses that we later used for tableware. By the way, one could also get peanut butter that way back in the day and we had a whole set of "good glassware" that had started out as Big Top Peanut Butter Jars.

Do you know how much peanut butter I had to eat to get a Thanksgiving setting??? Don't even ask. As to Big Top, this is what it looked like... sort of American Horror Story Light.

No wonder I don't like clowns. The idea of actually buying jars and filling them with something one made oneself, was not even contemplated. So, when I got older I became interested in doing just that. I learned to make pickles. I cured olives, and bacon. I made my own  jams, jellies, and chutneys.

   Canning, if one is careful, is actually a really economical and fun way to do home cooking. It's even better if one has access to fruit trees, or one's neighbors do, or one lives in a place where one can forage and glean. Short of that, there are sales and Farmers Markets where things can be bought in bulk. I used to make chutney of the loquats that grew all over the place when we lived in Santa Monica. Friends used to bring them to me to can, and I hated to see something that could be eaten rotting on the sidewalk, or in someones' back yard. Here in Sonoma, I live in a paradise of fruit and vegetables, some of which I grow myself. I don't raise mangoes however and right now we're in peak mango season which means they can be gotten cheaply.

   Whole Foods had a sale on organic mangoes the other day, at 12 dollars a case. One case (12 mangoes) makes 5 pints of chutney, or 10 half pints. When one cooks as much Indian food as I do I'm always opening a bottle of my own chutney for dinner parties, so this is a sweet deal. I have a garage full of canning jars all ready to be filled each season, and I was way behind schedule as we were renovating our new house last Summer and so no canning got done. The pantry was bare. I bought a case of mangoes and got busy.

For those of you who don't want to can , you can also make this chutney in a smaller amount, and keep it in the fridge, just halve this recipe, you'll have plenty left over but it keeps for a while.

Mango Chutney

Here's What You Need:
12 mangoes
5 cups of jaggery  ( you can also use dark brown sugar)
4 Tbs salt
4 Tbs coconut or other vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
4 tsp  crushed cumin seeds
4 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches each)
1 tsp turmeric
1 to 2 tsp of kashmiri chili

Here's What To Do:
Peel and cut the mangoes into cubes.

Add in the salt.

Add in the brown sugar, or jaggery.

Stir everything together well.

Set it aside and turn you attention to spices.

Put the cumin seeds in a mortar and crush them. They don't have to be pulverized, just sort of smashed.

 Add in the cloves and cinnamon.

Set this aside.
Place a large stainless steel pot on the stove, add in the vegetable oil and heat it up. When it's hot add in the mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds start to pop, add in the cumin, cinnamon and cloves.

Give everything a stir and add in the mango, salt, sugar mixture.

Bring things to a boil, then lower the heat to a strong simmer, add in the turmeric.

Cook at this heat, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks. You want to cook this for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until it thickens.

When it's a nice thick blend add in the Kashmiri chili.

Taste the chutney for heat, if you like more kick add a bit more. The best way to do this is start with the smallest amount of chili and then add to that until you're happy with the flavor.
If you're making chutney and not canning it, you are done. Let it cool and then put it into a sealed container in the fridge til you are ready to use it.
If you are canning, sterilize your canning jars  (I run them through the sterilize cycle  on my dishwasher) then put them in boiling water.
Here's an easy tutorial on how to do this. Just click here.
When my filled sterilized jars are ready I place them in the boiling water bath.

place the lid on the pot and boil them for 20 minutes.

Lift them out and let them cool, you will hear the "pop" of the lids as they cool letting you know you have created a seal.

Label your jars and store them in your pantry, or you can open one and enjoy right away.
Canning is simple once you get the hang of it. I've been doing this for about 20 years and there is a lot of information about this both on line and in books.
Mrs. Wheelbarrows Practical Pantry is a great guide to all things preserving, I highly recommend it.

Once you've tried this ancient skill I promise you'll get hooked and start looking around for anything that can be shoved in a jar. Meanwhile you have all that delicious chutney to enjoy.

Coming up next, more chutney recipes, and great easy Indian recipes for Summer entertaining follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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